Monday, December 30, 2013

Giftalong Interview with Cynthia Levy

We're on day 4 of our vacation and I've almost lost all sense of what day it is, but I remember enough to remember that it's almost the end of the Indie Designer Giftalong on Ravelry (it ends tomorrow at midnight!). Recently I was able to interview fellow designer Cynthia Levy (who goes by redtiger on Ravelry) about her designs and design process, and I'm happy to share that interview with you here.

How did you get started with designing?

I started designing socks just a challenge to myself. I was getting bored knitting plain socks, but love having them to wear, so I decided to add texture and interest to them. Then I became addicted and kept on designing more!

Ribbed Rope Socks

I've noticed that the vast majority of your designs are socks. What is it about socks that you find so compelling?

Socks are one of my favorite projects, both to knit and design, because the projects are so portable and the product is practical. I travel a lot with my day job so it’s nice to always have a small project on hand.

Tundra Trails Socks

Do you have a favorite design in your portfolio? If so, what is it and why?

One of my favorite designs from my portfolio is Snow Flurry Mittens. They’re cozy and cute and the design incorporates few clever techniques such as knitting inside out and varying needle sizes to balance out varying gauges from different stitches.

Snow Flurry Mittens

What can we expect from you in the new year?

I’ve got lots of ideas for new designs in 2014. I’ll be contributing sock designs for several Ravelry groups and I’m also hoping to release more fingerless mitt and hat patterns.

 Thanks so much, Cynthia! I really enjoyed looking through all your designs and getting to know you a little better, and I can't wait to see what you come out with in 2014!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Time Suck

What day is it again? I've been on vacation officially since 5 p.m. last Friday, but that doesn't mean I've had much time to relax. We just got back about two hours ago from a quick trip to visit some friends in D.C. for Christmas, and I'm in the process of doing several loads of laundry and repacking so we can leave for Florida in the morning. Once we get there, I'll finally be able to relax a bit and enjoy my time off, but man, traveling is such a hassle!

The good thing about the trip to D.C. was that I got about eight hours of car knitting time, plus time sitting around on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, plus about an hour or so each night after Rainbow went to bed. That meant that, at least in terms of my knitting, I was pretty productive.

Before we got halfway there on Tuesday, I had finished Rainbow's Antler Cardigan.

Obviously it still needs to have its buttons sewn on (they were selected before we left) and it needs a good blocking, but the time-consuming part of the project is done. If I can manage to get all my stuff together, those last two items may get done tonight.

After we arrived at our destination, I started a pair of mittens for Rainbow, whose hands haven't been very warm in the synthetic ones she's been using. The pair was quickly finished by the next day.

The yarn is plain old Cascade 220, in a bright pink (they're not as red as they appear here). The patten is called (so aptly) Classic Mittens, and I believe it's a vintage pattern. Even if it's not, it's free online and very easy, as you can see. I made the 2-4 size, but I have plenty of yarn left in the skein, so I will probably make another pair in a size larger to have on hand. These should be very cozy and warm, as they were worked on a size 4 needle (they stand up on their own!).

Finally, I'm just a toe away from having a finished pair of socks for me.

These are definitely getting done tonight -- no way I'm dragging these all the way to Florida only to finish them in the first few minutes there!

I am mostly packed, though deciding what yarn (and how much) to take was challenging. In the end, I decided on yarn for two smallish design projects and two skeins of STR for some replacement Monkey socks for me. If that's not enough, I suppose I'll have to find a yarn store somewhere (or I guess I could just read the two books I'm taking).

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Last Skein, a Day Late

This post should have gotten up yesterday, but I didn't get around to washing this skein until last night after Rainbow was in bed, so I had to wait until today for it to be dry and photographed. This will be my last handspun skein for the year, as I'm not planning on taking any spinning with me to Florida at this point.

I started with the most recent Bee Mice Elf fiber club shipment, 4 oz. of superwash merino in a very vibrant colorway called Scenic Drive.

I split the top for fractal spinning -- I split it in half lengthwise and then one of the halves in half lengthwise -- and spun two bobbins of singles on my miniSpinner (I thought a faster option was better considering I wanted to get everything done before we went away). I plied over the course of a couple evenings and finished up yesterday morning. It fluffed up ever so slightly in the finishing and the colors stayed just as vibrant.

The finished yarn looks to be about sport weight (which seems to be my new default weight for two ply) and roughly 345 yards.

I really love this skein -- and so does Rainbow. She's already asked me several times if it's for her, so I suppose I need to find something to do with it that will be appropriate for her.

We are leaving tomorrow for a quick trip to visit some friends for Christmas and then head to Florida for about a week and a half on Friday. I'm still trying to figure out what knitting to pack -- that's always the hardest part of packing for me!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

An Epidemic

After the most recent STR hole discovery, I decided to take a closer look at the other STR socks in my sock drawers. Unfortunately, what I found was not unexpected: It seems that the vast majority of them (a couple of pairs are in the pile waiting to be washed, so I didn't inspect them) are developing definite thin spots in the same place, right where the ball of my foot hits. Given that most of my STR pairs were knit in about the same time frame, it's logical that they'd all be showing similar signs of wear, particularly as those socks have tended to be my favorites and have seen more wear than other pairs in my collection.

Judging from these observations, I've made a number of conclusions about these socks:
  1. Socks That Rock is 100% superwash merino. Although it's tightly spun/plied, it's likely not going to be quite as durable as a wool/nylon blend or even a 100% wool yarn from a breed that's a little more hardy than merino.
  2. These socks probably could have been knit at a slightly tighter gauge. I think I probably did most of them on what used to be my favorite sock needles -- two 12" Addi Turbo circs in a US 1.5 (2.5 mm). I think my gauge has loosened a bit in the intervening years, so I'd probably need to knit replacements on a US 1 or 0.
  3. It might not be a bad idea to add a little reinforcement to the soles of some of my socks.
I do have quite a few skeins of STR in my stash from club shipments from years ago that I never knit, so I may wind up a few to have on hand and keep a pair going at all times to slowly replenish the collection.

Appropriately, though it's not in STR, I did just finish a new sock and cast on for its mate.

This was a design idea that I was playing with and started working on the weekend after Thanksgiving. I ignored it for a while, so it didn't really take me two and a half weeks to knit one sock (although that's not an outrageous amount of time given that it's been my lunchtime knitting for the past week or so, so it's only seen about a half hour to 45 minutes of attention on any given day). The yarn is Lucina  in Plume from SpaceCadet Creations that I picked up at Indie Knit and Spin last month, and the color is nowhere near accurate -- it's actually a slightly blue shade of purple.

Meanwhile, I did get out to knit night last night (thanks to my parents, who were able to come over and babysit Rainbow so I could have a night out), and I spent the two hours working on the body to Rainbow's Antler cardigan. It needs about one more inch to get to the length specified in the pattern, but I think I'm going to add an additional inch or two to allow her to get some more wear out of the sweater. My hope is to get that done and make a start on the yoke this weekend, and if it's not done by the time we leave for our Christmas trip, it'll come with me in the car.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Pink Thing

I've continued to work on Rainbow's sweater, which I've come to think of as "the pink thing" because it's so not my colors (I'm not a big fan of pastels in general). I finished the second sleeve and cast on for the body on Friday night and then got a few inches of body done at my LYS on Saturday afternoon.

This weekend was Rainbow's fourth birthday (how time flies!), and in keeping with some sort of weird tradition, she woke up completely congested on Saturday morning and had a bit of a fever by midday. I'm thinking it was some sort of 24-hour bug, because she was fine by Sunday afternoon -- which is when she seems to have passed it along to me, because after her party on Sunday I collapsed in a heap feeling like I had the flu. At least this year was better than when she turned one and both she and the Mister had the stomach flu.

This is a long way of saying that I didn't get much done on the sweater after Saturday, but I am about halfway done on the body. I'll be taking it to my last knit night of the year tomorrow evening and hope to add at least a couple more inches. With any luck, I'll get to the yoke -- the fun part -- by the weekend. I think finishing it in time for her to wear it to Christmas might be a little optimistic, but I might find some buttons just in case. Worst case, I can work on it in the car and while we're visiting our friends for the holiday (in which case she'll have it in time for us to go to Florida, ha).

Meanwhile, I made another alarming discovery on Sunday when I opened my sock drawer to pick out socks for the next day: Yet another pair of STR socks had developed a hole. These socks were knit just before we moved into our house, so they're about five and a half years old. They were among my favorites, so they have been worn a lot, but it was still somewhat of a shock.

I may try to find some yarn that matches well enough to darn this hole, though I'm guessing that may only be a temporary stopgap as far as these socks are concerned. I suppose this is a sign that I should really knit up the several skeins of STR that have been marinating in my stash for the past several years!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

From Deep in the Stash

About five and a half years ago, not long after I started spinning, I discovered All Spun Up on Etsy, and she soon became my fiber pusher. My first order from her contained two braids of fiber. One got spun up rather quickly (shortly after we moved into our house, actually). The other one sat in my stash to marinate for a long time. After Kristin stepped away from her dyeing business and it was thought that there would be no more fiber from her, I hoarded what I had left. But, after she came back in the last month, I decided it was high time I spin that braid, especially given that I was participating in an All Spun Up spinalong.

Here's what it looked like when I got it (photographed on plants in my parents' backyard when we were living with them temporarily):

I split the top in half and did a simple two ply, which looked about fingering when it came off the wheel but poofed up incredibly in the wash.

The twist on this yarn is tight, as I like, but even tighter than I anticipated. As a result, this skein is super bouncy and elastic. It's now about sport weight (with some thinner spots), and I ended up with 346.5 yards from my 4.3 oz.

Though I'm sad that the fiber is gone, I have to say that I love this yarn. I'm going to need to find the perfect pattern for it for something for me.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Speed Sweater

I mentioned in my last post that I'd cast on an Antler Cardigan for Rainbow. Although I took last night off from knitting to work on finishing up a spinning project, I'll be getting back to the sweater knitting tonight. I've only spent a couple of (brief) evenings working on it, and I'm about two or three rounds away from finishing the first sleeve.

Rainbow selected this yarn, and while it wouldn't be my first choice (I'd have opted for a solid or, preferably, a classic cream color), it is knitting up in an interesting way. The flashes of purple kind of look like tiger striping to me, and I don't think they're going to interfere too much with the cable pattern at the yoke.

This sweater is reminding me how fast it can be to knit a sweater for a small person. I guess I'm so used to working at small gauges that I forgot how speedy worsted knits up. Admittedly, I didn't swatch for this sweater, but that's only because I know that I can reliably get 18 stitches over four inches with Cascade 220 and a size 7 needle. This yarn is also superwash, so in a way I'm counting on it to come out a little big. I'm knitting the 4-6 size and hoping that Rainbow will be able to wear it for more than one season. She has already requested that I knit her another sweater after this one is done, so I guess there will be a bit of a rush to make sure everything is finished while it's still winter -- though, to be honest, considering how cold it's been already, I probably don't have to worry too much.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I have been known to cast on a bunch of things at once, but it's rare that I have more than one project finished at the same time, so I found myself in an unusual situation on Sunday night when I realized that I had three finished projects waiting to be blocked. Luckily, they were all small in size, so I was able to do them all at once.

First was the hot pink shawl, which I give you a peek of along with a warning that this color is nearly impossible to capture accurately even in daylight.

Then, there was the sweater for a friend's new baby. The sweater was finished about two and half weeks ago, though I only recently got around to sewing on the buttons (and blocking, obviously). It turns out that I did it all just in time, because the baby was born last week.

Pattern: Henry's Sweater by Sara Elizabeth Kellner, size 3-6 months
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash, color 1925/Cobalt Heather, approximately 1.5 skeins
Needles: US 6 (4.0 mm)
Started/Completed: November 10/November 21
Mods: adjusted the front bands and collar

This was a quick, easy knit, and obviously it's a cute FO. I chose it because it reminded me of the Baby Sophisticate pattern, which I'd knit for the new baby's older brother. I wanted something coordinating but not entirely matching, which is why I didn't knit the same sweater again (the first baby was born in December as well, so the new one should be able to wear the sweater I made for the older one, too).

My only modification was to pick up stitches along the entire front edge -- bands and collar -- so that there would be a bit of a border on the front edges. As written, the pattern calls for leaving them untouched, and as the sweater is in stockinette, that means they will roll. The couple of garter ridges I added don't entirely stop the rolling, but they help a little, and I also think the sweater looks more finished as a result.

The buttons are the real stars here, though. I found them at my LYS and amazingly they match the yarn perfectly, so they blend really well. They're cute without being cutesy, and I think they add the perfect amount of sweetness to an otherwise relatively plain sweater.

I also finished something for me this weekend, thanks in large part to a snow storm that kept me in the house all Sunday afternoon.

Photo taken with flash
Pattern: Quinta Cowl by Amy Maceyko
Yarn: my handspun Polwarth/silk from Gale's Art in Winter Is Coming
Needles: 24" US 3 (3.25 mm) Knit Picks circs
Started/Completed: November 28/December 8
Mods: added two repeats to the pattern around and did one additional vertical pattern repeat; subbed beads for bobbles

I'd been wanting to knit this ever since my friend Amy released it, and I knew it would be perfect for handspun. I added additional repeats to get the stitches to fit all the way around my needle so I wouldn't have to magic loop or use two needles, and I did an additional vertical repeat because I had plenty of yarn and wanted to use as much up as I could (and I still have some leftover, but I was worried it wouldn't be quite enough for a fifth repeat). My other main modification was to use hematite beads in place of the bobbles, both because I wanted a little bit of sparkle and because I'm not a huge fan of bobbles.

Photo taken without flash
I really loved knitting this pattern and am planning on knitting it again (I think it would be really gorgeous as an infinity cowl, though I might not twist the stitches in that case because they slow me down significantly). This may be my go-to pattern for a quick-ish gift in the future, and it really is excellently suited to handspun.

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of finishing all those things, I cast on for an Antler Cardigan for Rainbow using yarn she picked out at my LYS's Black Friday sale. It's Cascade 220 Superwash Paints, in a pink with some splashes of light purple, and it's knitting up quickly so far. I've spent hardly any time on it and already have at least half a sleeve. I expect that will soon be a whole sleeve.

*Today's post title might be a sign that I've been watching too much Doc McStuffins with my kid.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Spinning the Precious

After marinating in my stash for quite a few years, I finally pulled out some All Spun Up fiber last week -- a braid that was half of my very first order. I finished spinning the singles earlier in the week and started plying on Friday night. Although I spun the two halves in opposite directions, the colors seem to be serendipitously matching up.

I'd estimate I'm about a third of the way through plying and will work on it more this evening.

Meanwhile, I think I know what's going on the wheel next. The latest shipment of the Bee Mice Elf fiber club showed up on Thursday and it's a stunner.

This colorway is called Scenic Drive, and it's on superwash merino, one of my favorite fibers to spin. I don't have to decide just yet, but I'm leaning toward splitting this in half and doing a fractal two ply. I don't want to mess with these colors too much -- they're just as vibrant in real life!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Another Day, Another Hat

I have recently been told, in no uncertain terms, by my almost-4-year-old that I am required to make "a lot of hats" for her because the ones I've made in past years are all starting to get small on her. I made her the Hearts and Butterflies hat a few weeks ago, and it has seen a lot of wear since it came off the needles, but apparently one hat does not cut it.

My LYS has made the difficult decision to stop carrying madelinetosh yarn -- they have good reasons for doing so, but I'm still sad about it -- and as a result I've been irrationally acquiring random skeins of whatever tosh they have in stock. Several weeks ago, I picked up a single skein of tosh dk in Nostalgia, a pretty lavender purple with a hint of gray, as I knew it would be perfect for a hat for Rainbow. Then I saw Amy Miller's new aviator-style hat and bought it immediately. I had to make some minor adjustments, because the pattern called for tosh vintage (which is an Aran-weight yarn) and my yarn was a bit lighter, but it worked out just fine. I knit a size larger than what I'd normally knit for Rainbow and it came out just the right size for her.

Pattern: Amelia E. by Amy Miller
Yarn: madelinetosh tosh dk in Nostalgia, less than one skein
Needles: 32" US 6 (4.0 mm) Addi Turbos, used magic loop
Started/Completed: November 23/December 4
Mods: made the largest size to end up with a hat roughly 20" in circumference due to gauge change; used I-cord instead of twisted cord.

The length of time between casting on and binding off for this project isn't really indicative of the actual amount of knitting time. This was a very quick knit, and I probably could have finished it in a few evenings if I hadn't gotten so distracted by other things (though isn't that a case for a lot of things in my life?). The pattern is brief and to the point -- the instructions fit on one page, as a matter of fact -- and easy to follow. It's also very intuitive, so I didn't have to refer to the pattern all that often. The hat is worked from the top down, which made it a lot simpler to adjust for my difference in gauge because I could try it on Rainbow to check the length.

Other than the gauge thing, the only big modification I made was to do short-ish I-cords for the ties at the bottom of the ear flaps other than the twisted cord called for in the pattern. I didn't really feel the need for very long cords, as I doubt Rainbow would ever want to tie this thing under her chin, so I added them for decorative reasons alone. The directions have you decrease the ear flaps to five stitches (for this size) and then bind off; instead, I did one more decrease row with a double decrease to end up with three stitches and then worked about 5" of I-cord. I tied a knot with the cord at the end of each both to add a little weight and to help to secure the end that I buried in the center of the cord.

I have a decent amount of yarn leftover (I haven't weighed it and the hat to determine just how much yet), so I'll have to come up with something creative to do with the leftovers -- I hate to see good tosh go to waste!

As to the continuing hat replenishment project, I already have a skein of sparkly handspun wound and ready to become a Wurm. I have a feeling, though, that I might want to keep that hat for myself, which is a distinct possibility because I can get Rainbow's hats easily and only need a little more depth to fit my head (not a problem with a slouchy hat). There may be a hat fight in my future.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Little Things

I confess to being entirely distracted by spinning the last few days (and I have two full bobbins to show for it), but tonight is all about getting back to small pieces of knitting that need just a little more attention.

For one thing, I finished the blue baby sweater almost two weeks ago and bought buttons about a week and a half ago, but I have yet to sew them on. That gets remedied tonight. Aren't they sweet?

In real life, the sweater and buttons are royal blue, not purple.
The sweater clearly needs to be blocked, after which it will be packaged up with the blanket and put aside until Christmas (though perhaps I'll use the extra yarn to knit a small coordinating hat as well first).

Speaking of things that need to be blocked, I finished the hot pink shawlette on Thanksgiving but still need to weave in my ends and block it. Luckily this is not the sort of thing that needs an aggressive blocking, but I did do a picot bind off and probably need to pin out those picots to get it to look nice and tidy. Then there's the pattern writing and photo shoot to do, but those can wait for a bit. And I will spare you a photo because there's no way to capture the color anywhere remotely accurately in the dark with a flash.

Finally, there's the hat I started for Rainbow (Amelia E. by Amy Miller) in tosh dk in Nostalgia.

I got all the increases done -- it's a top-down hat -- in the first day or two of knitting but seem to have stalled out somewhere along the way. I probably have another inch or less to knit before the main part of the hat is done, so that will be my goal this evening once all the other finishing is done.

I am really dying to cast on for a new sweater for Rainbow (the yarn for which she picked out on Black Friday), but I'm making myself finish this stuff up first. Being good is so hard!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Wrapping Things Up

Oh, hello. Remember me? I had every intention of blogging at least once late last week, but I guess I was enjoying my Thanksgiving vacation a little too much. The good news is that while I wasn't spending that much time in front of my computer, I did get a lot of fiber-y stuff done. For one thing, I finished spinning my polwarth/silk into a lovely skein.

Although there were some thick and thin spots, it's mostly fingering weight. I have about 327 yards, so more than enough for the project it's already becoming:

I also finished plying the rest of my singles from Spinzilla (well, there's a little leftover, but I'm not worried about it).

The smaller skein on the top was all the little bits of leftovers combined. In total, I have about 562 yards, which should be enough to make Rainbow a sweater. She has already requested that we "add some color" to it, so we may be playing around with food color dyeing in the near future.

Finally, I pulled out some of my most precious fiber to spin -- one of the two braids from my original order from my favorite fiber pusher (who is recently back to dyeing, by the way). I'm doing a straightforward two ply and wondering why it took me so long to spin this up because it's so gorgeous.

I'm going to sit down now and try to work on the second bobbin for a while. There's more fiber content to come in the next post!